Thursday, December 10, 2009

Crime Fiction Alphabet: J is for P.D. James

Continuing the "Alphabet in Crime Fiction," my entry for the letter "J" is Baroness P.D. James, author of such mystery classics as The Murder Room, Death in Holy Orders, and the Edgar-winning Unsuitable Job for a Woman.

For her brand-new book, however, James turns to the craft itself with Talking About Detective Fiction (Knopf). As one of the great living writers in the field, she's certainly qualified. Although it's a slim volume, James manages to survey a veritable who's who of the history of mystery, including Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Peter Lovesey, Henning Mankell, and Sara Paretsky. The author discusses detective fiction as social history, and the renewal of detective fiction in recent years. She also takes the time to share her own experiences as a noted author.

"Detective fiction has fascinated me both as a reader and a novelist for over 50 years," she tells Amazon in an interview, "and I enjoyed revisiting the books of the Golden Age which have given me such pleasure, and describing how I myself set out on the task of writing a detective story which can be both an exciting mystery and a good novel." Read an excerpt here at Random House.

Baroness James is the author of some twenty books, including the popular series of detective novels starring her iconic creation Commander Adam Dalgliesh, a policeman and a poet. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Departments of Great Britain’s Home Office. She has served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. In 2008 she was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame in 2008.

More about Talking About Detective Fiction:
Interview: A Q&A With PD James (Amazon)
Interview: PD James, Queen of Detective Fiction (Telegraph UK)
Interview: A 'howdunit' from one of the best in the mystery business (Globe and Mail)
Review: Mysteries of Crime Fiction? P. D. James Is on the Case (New York Times)
Review: Talking about Detective Fiction, By PD James (The Independent UK)
Review: Talking About Detective Fiction (Christian Science Monitor)

More Crime Fiction Alphabet:
Crime Fiction Alphabet: I is for The Innocence of Father Brown (G.K. Chesterton)
Crime Fiction Alphabet: H is for Homicide Trinity (Rex Stout)
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Die Laughing: Funny Crime and Mystery Fiction


A woman with a complicated past returns home to become the small town's new sheriff. Best Mann For The Job is by the writer/artist team of Chris and Erica Well. Read it from the beginning at Watch the trailer on YouTube.